Kendall Hutchison, For The Miami Student

Increasing interest from students, staff and faculty has prompted the E-Learning Advisory Council to introduce new online programs at Miami University. Though the university provided 180 online courses in 25 different subject areas this past summer, students can prepare for an increase in offerings within the next three years.

The E-Learning plan is an outline of the actions that need to be taken in order to successfully implement new online program initiatives, Assistant Provost for International Education Cheryl Young said. In the 2012-13 year, more than 2,300 students took online classes offered through the university, which represents the increasing interest among the student body. Young said she has been working alongside fellow members to hire someone in the next few months to head the proposed initiative. This new hire will then begin to form and structure the E-Learning program by establishing an office and team of staff. “It’s imperative to create an E-Learning program, because it feeds the needs of the students here at Miami,” Young said. “Our school is very innovative, which means it’s important to meet the changing and growing requests of the student body.”

Junior Ashley Spellacy, who has never taken an online course before, said she thinks it will be beneficial for the university to offer more E-Learning programs, and would be interested in participating in such courses. “More online classes would offer new opportunities for students to take courses outside of the regular school year, because it allows for increased flexibility,” Spellacy said.

For years, Miami has offered online courses, but now the E-Learning Advisory Council and the E-Learning Office are focused on expanding the programs available to students. In June 2013, the E-Learning Advisory Council published a report discussing their overall mission, recommendations and business plan. “Given the rapid growth of online education and its importance for higher education, it is imperative that post-secondary institutions embrace dynamic approaches to online learning,” the report read.

According to Young, most of the current classes offered through the university are designed for summer and winter terms. She said the new E-Learning plan will urge more students to take classes through Miami rather than other universities. The plan will also target students who wish to further their education through an additional minor, and will form working partnerships with international universities in order to offer more opportunities for students abroad.

Brooke Bonner, graduate assistant for the Speech Pathology and Audiology Department who is also a former Miami student, said she thinks online classes are good because they allow for people to do classwork on their own time. However, she said she feels they create limited interaction with fellow classmates and the instructor which can make it difficult to fully comprehend the material.

“In terms of accessibility I think creating more online programs would be beneficial for commuters, but could also have a negative impact on students because it would make them more focused on their individual grade rather than the discussion and learning aspect,” Bonner said.

To achieve the goals of the initiative, the E-Learning Advisory Council is requesting $2.4 million as an initial investment, Young said. This money will go towards instructors’ salaries, hiring the E-Learning Office personnel, marketing, state authorization of the program and overall operations. Junior Kaitlyn Berry, a supply chain management major, said she thinks that increasing online programs will have a negative impact on the university. While she agrees that it is important to keep up with changing technologies, she thinks online courses will take away from having the opportunity to learn from professors in person.

“I think that online classes ruin the experience that a traditional classroom settings offers students,” Berry said.

While the first phase isn’t expected to begin until [later this year], if accepted by the university, the E-Learning Advisory Council has laid out a three-year plan detailing revenue projections. Following the initial investment, it is projected that the E-Learning initiative will allow for a net of more than $8 million for the university by its third year.

With continuing interest regarding increasing the number of online programs offered at Miami, the student body can keep an eye out for new E-Learning initiatives to become available.